The Power of Remembrance

“I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all of your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.” -Psalm 77:11

One of the greatest themes that I’ve noticed in the Bible is the importance of remembrance. All throughout the Scriptures, God calls His people to remember His goodness.

In the book of Leviticus, God appointed weekly and yearly rhythms of remembrance for the people of Israel. For example, the Sabbath was a weekly rhythm to remember how God rested on the seventh day. The Passover was a yearly rhythm to remember how God delivered the Israelites from Egypt.

Throughout the rest of the Old Testament, the Israelites regularly created altars of remembrance to commemorate God’s miraculous works. For example, in Joshua 4, they stacked 12 stones in remembrance of how God miraculously parted the Jordan river and let them cross on dry land.

All throughout the Psalms, David and other writers meditated on the works and wonders of God. They called the reader to remember God’s past faithfulness and dwell on His goodness.

Most poignantly, at the Last Supper, Jesus invited His followers to take the bread and the cup in remembrance of Him.

It’s clear that God calls His followers to be a people marked by remembrance.

There is so much power in remembering God’s goodness.

And there is so much danger in forgetting.

The Israelites repeatedly forgot the Lord and His goodness to them. They cycled through seasons of faithful remembrance and seasons of forgetfulness. When they forgot God, they became captives to idolatry and oppression.

“They did not keep God’s covenant and refused to live by His law. They forgot what He had done, and the wonders He had shown them. They did not remember His power— the day He redeemed them from the oppressor.”

-Psalm 78: 10, 11, and 42 

Oh, how I see my own heart reflected in the story of Israel. I am so quick to forget all that God has done for me. And forgetting God’s goodness makes me vulnerable to the schemes of the Enemy.

I’ve noticed that I’m most vulnerable to anxiety when I focus my attention on disappointment and pain. When I dwell on all that seems wrong in my life, the Enemy attacks me with doubt, self-pity, and fear.

However, the opposite happens when I dwell on God’s goodness in my life. I notice the ways that He has been guiding and sustaining my life since the day I was born. I remember the difficult seasons He has carried me through and the growth that He done in my heart. I am struck by the deep and meaningful relationships He has provided in different seasons of my life. And most of all, I remember the way He has unconditionally loved me and forgiven my sins.

Now this doesn’t mean that I ignore the pain and disappointments in my life. However, I don’t dwell in them alone. Instead, I invite God’s interpretation of the painful events I experience. I ask Him to show me the ways that He is acting redemptively in my life, bringing good out of what the Enemy intended for evil.

I want to share several practices that help me to dwell on God’s goodness.

Daily Gratitude: I know I wrote about this in an earlier post, but it’s worth mentioning again. Gratitude is a powerful weapon against anxiety and self pity. At the close of each day,  I like to take inventory of the day and ask God to reveal His goodness and grace to me. This can include very small moments like the grace to handle a difficult conversation, energy when I felt weak, or the beautiful, misty morning as I drove to work. Looking for God’s fingerprints in the small things enables me to see the larger patterns of His goodness in my life.

Reading old journals: Every year or so, I read back through my journals. Each time I am struck by the ways that God has been so faithful in my life. I remember times when I felt lost and afraid, but God was actually at work in ways that I couldn’t see at the time. I am struck by how God repeatedly used painful situations to draw me into deeper intimacy with Him. Reflecting on old journals gives me fresh perspective on current circumstances and renews my hope for the future.

Writing a psalm: A mentor of mine gave me this idea. She encouraged me to take Psalm 136 and re-write it about my own life, following each example of God’s goodness with the phrase “His love endures forever.” My psalm started as follows:

God knit me together in my mother’s womb.

His love endures forever.

God blessed me with dear parents who love and serve Him.

His love endures forever…

I found that writing out chronological acts of God’s goodness helped me to better see His hand in my life.

Creating my own altar of remembrance: This is another idea from the same mentor. She suggested drawing my own altar of remembrance (like the Israelite people did in Joshua 4). In each stone, I wrote a specific way that God has been faithful in my life. I’ve found this visual to be a powerful reminder of the way God’s faithfulness builds upon itself in my life.

Especially in dark seasons, I notice my human tendency to focus on all that seems wrong in my life. However, I know that I don’t need to stay stuck there.

Even in the most challenging times, God invites me to re-frame my perspective.

He invites me to remember who He is and what He has done.

I don’t want to ever forget.